The federal administration has announced that it will soon launch an investigation of the wrongful use or overuse of antipsychotic drugs on patients in nursing homes.
The administration has long been investigating the misuse of antipsychotic sedatives, including those that are typically prescribed for nursing home patients who do not require these drugs at all. In too many cases, investigators have found nursing homes wrongly classifying certain patients as schizophrenic so that they may be prescribed antipsychotic sedative drugs. The administration has also found several nursing homes engaging in these practices and wants to understand whether these practices are widespread in the industry. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services believes that the problem is a prevalent one, and that its scope has not been fully investigated. Therefore, it has now announced that it will soon launch an investigation of such practices in the nursing home industry.
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that is characterized by symptoms that include delusions, hallucinations and other symptoms. Antipsychotic drugs are often used to treat patients with schizophrenia. Side effects of these medications can include death. It is estimated that less than 1% of the American population suffers from schizophrenia. However, more than 99 nursing homes classify as many as 20% of their patients with schizophrenia. That is a disproportionately large percentage of nursing home residents who are being diagnosed with this condition, relative to the American population with schizophrenia. In other words, the math simply does not add up here.
Last year, a government report also underscored that many nursing homes are classifying patients as having the condition when they do not have symptoms of schizophrenia. This is being done with only one objective in mind – the easier control and management of these patients using antipsychotics. According to the report, the overuse of antipsychotics in nursing homes had dropped over a period of several years, but in 2019, far too many nursing homes classified their patients as schizophrenic. Moreover, it was just a handful of nursing homes that seemed to have a disproportionate number of patients coded as schizophrenic. The federal administration wants to focus its probe specifically on these nursing homes.
Unauthorized and unlawful sedation of patients is a fairly common practice in nursing homes. If your loved one is currently admitted in a nursing home, make sure that you look for signs of over sedation in your loved one during your visits. Symptoms of over medication can include sleepiness, confusion, and disorientation. If you find that your loved one is uncharacteristically lethargic, raise your concerns with the nursing home staff.
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